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Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television


Having ceased production in 2015, Mad Men is history. It remains, however, an apt example of the ways in which television has lately been offering a great deal of history through its programming. Television offers accessible and inviting imaginaries of historical periods and events, yet this programming is marked by different theories of historiography and very different assumptions about the role and purpose of history than that which animates the work of scholarly historians. Indeed the gulf between these approaches to history is significant not only for its size, but also for the divide it produces in historical knowledge and, in turn, the ways history can be called upon to inform political decision-making and to influence social practice. The history presented by television, therefore, is important to consider precisely because of the ways it can frame historical discourses and influence assumptions about the role of history. As a touchstone for reconsiderations of 1960s cultural history, Mad Men presented a form of history modeled on the makeover and influenced by an affinity for advertisements. This essay will interrogate the institutional, thematic, and cultural histories of the series itself in order to understand the ways it represented history to its viewers.



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